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The value of player leadership in the offseason

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Next season is, in many ways, shaped by who steps up right after last season.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Much of my college career I preferred the calm of my own space. I had friends, but generally kept to myself. I didn’t care for a position of leadership because I didn’t want the responsibility. Was that selfish? Maybe. Immature? More likely. (Former Syracuse Orange Head Coach) Scott Shafer was always frustrated with me because I refused the role and wouldn’t grow up. He knew I had the ability but in my mind, I had more important things to do than deal with my teammates. I had my own way, fit for just one.

What I did do was observe. Throughout my time at Syracuse, I came across several exceptional leaders. Some familiar names include #SHAMARKO Thomas, Sam Rodgers, Cam Lynch and Zaire Franklin, but there are so many more that have passed through the SU locker room (some are still there). They are exceptional individuals willing and able to take on incredible responsibility at such a young age. I’m sure it’s why their careers have been as successful as they have been.

Right now is one of the driest periods in college football. Coaches are away recruiting and players have been generally left to their own devices. But leaders carry the vision. They understand that everything is a step towards the ultimate goal. Coaches rely on them to maintain team focus while the goal seems so far away.

The best leaders understand the value of “right now.” They push themselves to constantly maintain order and take the necessary steps, no matter how little, toward their goals. They have a keen sense of how to better themselves and those around them.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

On one occasion, my sophomore year, Cam Lynch pulled me aside and told me not to take a backseat to the corners ahead of me. He saw my potential, highlighted my strengths and encouraged me. I’m sure he didn’t know it, but at the time, I really needed it. I felt like the new staff had been ignoring my efforts. That fall, I went on to have one of my most productive seasons. Cam placed that chip on my shoulder and I ran with it. I didn’t start, but my contributions helped lead that team to a bowl game. This is just one example of how a little bit of guidance and leadership can go a long way.

Player personalities vary all throughout a locker room. Some more reserved, some more outgoing and boastful. Leaders have that innate ability to relate to everyone and bring the best in them out.

Average players get distracted. They create drama with women, dabble with drugs, and fall victim to whatever else the college life has to offer. Average players get lazy. They miss class, they half-ass workouts. Average players complain. Their eyes aren’t clear, they can’t see or understand the vision until it’s close.

That’s why we need our leaders. I don’t know who will step up in the locker room this year, but I hope those who can will. Team success is an incredible feeling everyone can engage in from fan to player. This program has been suffocating for success for years, and I think this group has the pieces in place to kick off the trend and establish a winning culture.

Real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determination. They uplift and guide the group. They motivate and encourage. Leaders make the team stronger and they come in many different forms.

My hope is that they come forward. We need them. For this Syracuse football team 2017 is bright, and as the group moves forward throughout the spring and summer, I encourage those leaders to step up. I promise great things will happen.